Citizens are rightfully demanding action from elected officials to address climate change through legislation and policies to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and their associated greenhouse gas and smog-forming air emissions. And while these actions at the state and federal level are crucial, there are also important opportunities for actions that can be taken by individuals in our local communities, including encouraging the transition to the use of battery-electric lawn equipment within the private and public sectors.
Lawn care equipment - an opportunity 'hidden in plain site'
Although there are tens of millions of gas-powered lawn mowers and related lawn care tools operating in the US that are consuming billions of gallons of gas and diesel annually, the need to rapidly transition to the use of battery-electric lawn care equipment has yet to be widely acknowledged and acted upon.
There’s a variety of reasons for this lack of attention, but one reason is that too few people realize how much fuel all this equipment is actually consuming. For example, a typical gas or diesel lawn commercial-grade mower operated for 600 hours per year consumes between 600 and 900 gallons of fuel per year, which releases between 10,000 to 18,000 lbs (6 to 9 tons) of CO2. For comparison, an automobile averaging 25 mpg and driven 10,000 miles annually, will consume 400 gallons of gasoline. And because gas-powered lawn mowers and related hand-tools (e.g. string trimmers, debris blowers, etc.) lack any emission controls, they also emit a huge amount of harmful, smog-forming air pollution.
The good news is that the use of electric lawn care equipment is increasing throughout the US, both because of the expansion in local noise ordinances, and the fact that there’s such a large variety of high-quality battery-electric equipment available for use by residential and commercial/institutional customers. California and Vermont both also offer valuable cash incentives/rebates for the purchase of residential and commercial E-lawn care equipment.
Specific actions that can be taken to encourage the transition to E-lawn care equipment in local communities
While the use of E-lawn care equipment is growing within the public and private sectors in the US, unfortunately, its use is still very much the exception. To help expand the use of this equipment in our local communities, there’s some very specific actions that individuals and advocacy organizations can take, including:
Collect data and information about current mowing practices:
- Find out if your school, city or town, place of worship, etc. does their own mowing, or hires contractors.
- Find out what makes/models of gas-powered lawn mowers and tools are used (e.g. string trimmers, debris blowers, etc.).
- Find out how many hours those mowers are being operated annually.
- Find out, or estimate the approximate amount of fuel these mowers are consuming annually.
- Find out, or estimate the approximate amount of money that’s being spent on this fuel.
- Estimate the approximate volume of CO2 that’s being released by this volume of fuel. (Note: Assume an average of 20 lbs of CO2/gal of gas or diesel).
- Estimate the amount of electricity that would be consumed by comparable E-mowers if operated for the same number of hours (Note: Assume an average of 2.8 kWh per operating hour for commercial E-mowers).
- Estimate how much that amount of electricity would cost based on the cost per kWh in your community.
- Find out the approximate amount of money that’s spent on service and repair of those commercial mowers annually.
- Identify the available battery-electric alternatives to these commercial mowers, as well as the purchase price of comparable commercial E-mowers, taking into account available incentives/rebates.
- Using the interactive “Life-cycle Cost Comparison” spreadsheet on the Mow Electric! website, determine the potential cost-savings from the use of commercial E-mowers. (Note: These savings are related to the significantly lower cost of electricity versus gas, and the significantly lower costs for service and repair for commercial E-mowers).
- Using the interactive “CO2 Emissions Comparison” spreadsheet on the Mow Electric! website, compare the CO2 emissions associated with the electricity used by E-mowers compared to commercial gas-powered mowers. (Note: The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources estimates there’s approximately 0.26 lb CO2 associated with 1 kWh of electricity distributed/used in Vermont, but this number will be different in other states/regions depending on the sources of that electricity).
- Measure the sound levels of the gas-powered mowers and yard tools compared to the sound levels of comparable E-lawn mowers and tools. (Note: There are a variety of high quality phone apps readily available for measuring sound levels).
- Identify and contact other end-users of E-lawn care equipment in your region/state, obtain “user testimonials” to share, and ask if these individuals would be willing to talk to others considering making this transition.
Develop and implement a strategy to advocate for the transition to electric lawn care practices in your community:
- Enlist the support/guidance of local and national advocacy organizations such as Quiet Communities, American Green Zone Alliance, Regional Clean Cities Coalitions, statewide energy and climate action organizations, supportive city councilors/selectmen, school board member and administrators, students, etc.
- Organize residential and commercial E-lawn equipment demonstrations.
- Identify the administrative/budgetary process through which lawn care equipment is purchased, and ensure this process is adequately considering the purchase of E-lawn care equipment.
- Identify the various barriers to the purchase of E-lawn care equipment (e.g. higher purchase price, resistance from grounds department staff, etc.) and then gather/present data/information to overcome those barriers, including developing a proposal that highlights the environmental and economic benefits of this equipment, and organizing demo events.